Crown Resorts retains Perth casino licence despite unsuitability findings

Crown Resorts Melbourne, Victoria

A Perth casino royal commission has found that Crown Resorts is unsuitable to continue holding a gaming licence in Western Australia, but the company will undergo a two year remediation, to be overseen by an independent monitor, to clean up its act.

Echoing previous findings in New South Wales and Victoria, commissioners Neville John Owen, Carolyn Frances Jenkins, Colin Murphy, identified a series of failures across a near 1000-page report.

The Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia recommended the inquiry last year to assess the group’s suitability, as well as its own effectiveness and that of the Casino Control Act 1984.

A series of findings are outlined following the inquiry, which found that Crown failed to minimise gambling related harm, permitted junkets with criminal links to operate at the casino, and was not open, accountable, or competent in communications with the state regulator. 

Furthermore, the company was found to have facilitated money laundering and failed to have an effective AML program in place.

“The deficiencies in Crown’s corporate governance and risk management processes culminated in an elevated risk to Perth Casino of money laundering and criminal infiltration,” the report states.

The commissioners did note progress made by the group following similar such actions also imposed by fellow Australian states, noting that “a lot has changed, mainly for the better, even since the Victorian inquiry reported in October 2021”.

However, it is added that “there are many aspects that require attention but some of them are the Crown corporate and governance structure, Perth Casino’s risk management program, Perth Casino’s gambling-related harm program and its money laundering program.”

A series of 59 recommendations related to Crown and its corporate governance are detailed, which include “adopting a trust and (or) corporate structure that has more clarity than the current arrangement concerning operational and governance responsibilities, roles and accountability”.

Furthermore, it is suggested that an EGM scheme be implemented that stipulates a series of mandatory limit of electronic gaming machine play, as well as imposing conditions for applying to the Pearl Room VIP gaming space.

It is also proposed that the Casino Control Act 1984 be replaced by an update and revised framework, with the report stating that it “has not been changed sufficiently to accommodate alterations to the Perth Casino licensee’s corporate and governance structure that have occurred”.

Moreover, an overhaul of the GWC is recommended to increase the “capability and effectiveness” of the casino regulator, which includes additional staff, such as obtaining assistance from an expert advisor.

Acknowledging receipt of the report, Steve McCann, Crown’s Managing Director and CEO, commented: “Significant progress has been made with Crown’s transformation program, the implementation of company-wide reforms, and establishing the highest standards of governance. This includes investment in people, systems, processes, culture and a sharp focus on responsible gaming and the prevention of financial crime. 

“Crown remains committed to continuous improvement across all facets of the business and is prioritising the delivery of safe and responsible gaming across all of our resorts, including Crown Perth.” 

Following the release of the report, Tony Buti, Racing and Gaming Minister, says that the government welcomes the recommendations and will take a “stages approach” to its response. 

“I want to thank the commissioners for their meticulous work in compiling the Perth Casino royal commission,” he commented. 

“The Perth Casino royal commission has shown Western Australians, including the thousands of hardworking Crown employees, they deserve better from its casino operator and from its governance. 

“The McGowan government is now committed to bringing about wide-reaching reforms to ensure we have a governance framework that ensures the casino is held to account. 

“To kickstart this process, I will issue a statement of expectation to the Gaming and Wagering Commission to formally advise of the government’s expectation that it acts in a manner consistent with the recommendations of the final report. 

“I look forward to the task of progressing these important reforms to ensure the highest standards of integrity.”